Purple martin

Progne subis

SUBFAMILY

Hirundinae

TAXONOMY

Hirundo subis Linnaeus, 1758. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Hirondelle noire; German: Purpurschwalbe; Spanish: Golondrina de Iglesias.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

7 in (18 cm); 1.7 oz (48 g). The male is colored overall a glossy, iridescent purple-black, with darker wings, while the female is brownish with a lighter belly.

DISTRIBUTION

Breeds widely in North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. It migrates to spend the non-breeding season in central South America.

HABITAT

Inhabits open areas near suitable nesting sites, often near water. BEHAVIOR

A long distance migrant, it winters in southern parts of its range (Venezuela to southeastern Brazil). During migration it often gathers in large flocks. Attracts a mate and defends a nest site by song and aerial maneuvers. The song is a low-pitched, bubbling twitter.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on insects that are caught in flight.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Breeds in colonies in special, apartment-style nest-boxes with individual compartments, or in a dead, hollow tree. It may be non-colonial at natural nesting sites. Typically lays a clutch of four to six eggs. The eggs are incubated by the female, but both parents feed the young.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. A locally abundant species, although declining over parts of its range. The practice of removing dead trees with cavities has reduced nesting sites, and introduced species also compete for nesting cavities.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

A familiar and popular bird to many people. An occupied apartment nest-box is highly prized, because of the lively nature of the martins and the fact that they eat such large numbers of irritating insects, such as mosquitoes. ♦

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